The hungry rumble of thunder rolled in the hills. It rolled over hummock and barrow, an echo of the lightning that split the sky. It roared and raced, over farm and field.
And it burst into the cold stone tower mere seconds after the electricity lit up the sky. The studious silence was broken. At his lone table, the boy stirred from his essay writing.
He was more than a boy, really. Closer to a man, in fact. At least sixteen in appearance, but his height suggested seventeen, possibly eighteen. His features marked him out as more than common, with fine high cheekbones and a handsome face, in a sort of guarded way. Dark brown hair, almost black, fell in sheets to his neck. It was slightly curled, but not so much as to be distinctly feminine. His skin was lightly tanned, but that had already begun to fade, as his days in the sun grew fewer and fewer.
“A storm is coming,” he said quietly. It was an observation he meant for himself, and also a slight question directed at the other man in the room.
The man in question stood at the only window in this room of the tower. His mentor was a contemplative man, and preferred to have as little distraction as possible. Today, however, he had assigned the boy his work, then went and stood in front of the window for hours. It was high and clear, with not a stain of colour. Through it, one could see the fields and farms below for miles, and in the distance, the Honshitsu Mountains sat squat and low. At ground level, they would be invisible, but here, in one of the highest towers for many long miles, their tips could just be seen over the horizon.
Without turning, the man spoke. His voice barely rose above a whisper. “A storm is coming, indeed. But it will pass, as they always do.”
The boy hesitated. Then he stood and walked over to join the man by the window. The cold stone beneath his bare feet sent a tingle through his body. Blood and feeling rushed back, after long hours seated at his desk.
When first the boy arrived at this cold stone tower, he had stood a full head shorter than the older man. He had trembled in apprehension, jittering with nerves. All the time, he had been convinced that at any moment, his father’s men were going to burst out of some hidden alcove and whisk him away back to Seventh Tower.
That was nearly two years ago now, and as he stood beside his mentor now, he realized that he was half a head taller. He was a lot calmer, too. It had taken months, but the old man had earned his trust.
“Yes, a storm is coming. Like all things, it will come to pass. Perhaps it will take a week, perhaps no more than a few days. But it will end, and light will return. Winter, too, is coming. It will be a hard winter, a long winter. They’ve been getting longer for nigh on twenty years.”
At the window, the boy could see the gathering clouds in the distance. They were a deep, dark grey, and their swirling left an ominous feeling in the boy’s stomach. He looked down at his mentor.
The years had stripped his hair of all pigment, and left it a shaggy mix of white and grey. Like the boy’s own hair, it fell to his neck, but it was neater, and had a dark grey beard to match. His face was wrinkled a thousand thousand times, soft laugh lines that stretched from his eyes and deep frown marks that folded on his forehead. It was a wise face, with wise eyes. Wise, but shrewd. His eyes were dark flinty grey that glinted slightly in the fading light.
Once, Dallus Gardarrion had been a vibrant, brilliant man. He had been the pride of the Courts of Long Summer, one of their brightest inventors. But then something-and he would not tell the boy what-had ravaged his identity and left him bereft of all his riches. All that was left was a lone tower and a small estate, an insignificant gift from the Skyfall Council as payment for his services. Worst, it was in Atheria. Now, here he stood, faded and shamed, a lord with no true holdings; a grey shade of a great man.
Dallus spoke again, softly. “Winter is coming, Sam, but it’s coming to pass. So too is this storm. Never in the Lands of Long Summer would we have seen a storm like what is to come, barring on a ship in the cloudsea. What do you always remember of storms, Sam?”
Sam grimaced. I remember long nights of wet in a pass that was little more than a strip of rock. I remember running without sleep from the only home I knew. I remember being cold, soaked to the bone. I remember stealing fire and food from poachers and farmers alike. “I remember the rain.”
|Aiden Gillan||as Lucian Silverhand|
|Michael Caine||as Dallus|